Although the rise of digital technology has surpassed CDs as the most popular way to listen to music, the compact disc is still a great way to enjoy audio. Connecting a CD player to speakers allows you to enjoy this medium at its best quality.
Learning how to connect a CD player to speakers is quite simple. Firstly, you must use the correct cables or connection method for your device. Regardless of whether you’re using a standalone CD player, multi-changer, or a Discman, you can connect it to speakers with relative ease.
Speakers and CD players vary in terms of their specifications, and therefore we need to discuss the most common methods used to connect these two devices. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide you with clear instructions on how to hook your CD player up to a set of speakers so that you can start enjoying music and audio in high quality right away.
What You Need to Connect a CD Player to Speakers
Perhaps you’ve rediscovered your old CD player and want to revisit some of your favorite albums or singles for years gone by. Standalone CD players often have built-in speakers, but they sometimes don’t do the music justice in terms of sound quality.
An easy way to solve this issue is by connecting the standalone CD player to a set of external speakers which perform better than the inbuilt ones. However, if you’ve never done this before, it may seem like a confusing thing to attempt.
We’ve become so accustomed to simply hooking up our devices to Bluetooth speakers, or plugging into a singular aux cable, that connecting a CD player to speakers may seem like an arduous task. Thankfully, providing you follow some simple steps, it shouldn’t take much time or effort.
Firstly, we need to establish the vital pieces of equipment you’ll need to make this happen, which are:
- CD player (source)
- Stereo receiver (amp)
- Two speakers
- Cables (usually RCA)
- Speaker wire
In some cases, you might need additional components depending on the capabilities and age of your CD player, but this list will provide everything you need in the vast majority of cases.
Now that you know exactly what you need, let’s get into the methods you’ll need to use to connect your speakers to your CD player.
Connecting Your CD Player to Speakers
The process of connecting a CD player to speakers is usually the same as connecting a vinyl record player. On the rear panel of the CD player, there should be two outputs. These are commonly RCA outputs that have red and white connectors.
If your speakers are passive speakers, you’ll need to use a receiver to amplify the audio. This is because CD players don’t contain an amplifier, and therefore it’s not possible to simply connect them directly to a set of passive stereo speakers.
Once you’ve located the output on the CD player, connect the relevant RCA cables to it, and then you’ll need to send that connection into your receiver. If the receiver facilitates RCA connectors to its inputs, simply plug them in directly.
On the other hand, if your receiver only takes 3.5mm mini-jack cables or ¼ inch jack cables, you’ll need to use an RCA to jack cable to form the connection. After the CD player is successfully connected to the receiver, you then need to send the output to your speakers.
This is where you’ll need a speaker wire, to form the connection between the receiver and the speaker. Your receiver should have a set of speaker terminals on the back panel. Some have small clips to hold the wire in place, while others may use a screw mechanism.
Then, take the other ends of the speaker wire and connect them to the relevant terminals on the back of the speakers. They should be labeled left and right, so make sure you connect them to the same side as you did on the receiver to avoid panning issues.
Once your speakers and receivers are connected, you can play a CD and check the levels. It’s always a good idea to start with the levels turned down and slowly increase them so that you don’t unintentionally damage your hearing or anger your housemates or neighbors!
Whether you’re using a standalone CD player, walkman, Discman, or a multi-changer, the above method should be the same for all devices. You might just need to swap out the RCA cables for a mini-jack, but this will vary depending on the specifics of your device.
For more information on Active and Passive speakers check out this article.
Connecting a CD Player to Active Speakers
If you don’t have a receiver, you can still connect your CD player to speakers providing they are of the active variety. This means that the (active) speaker has an inbuilt amplifier which removes the need for a receiver.
Many audiophiles prefer to use passive speakers for their sound systems, simply because they afford you more control over the levels and other aspects of the output. Active speakers are commonly used in live sound settings, such as for monitoring onstage. Many PA speakers are active speakers for example.
- Small computer speakers are also good options to use if you don’t have a receiver.
They are active and are therefore able to amplify the audio signal from the CD player without the aid of an external device.
To connect a CD player to speakers without a receiver, you’ll need to plug a set of audio cables into the output on the back panel. Again, depending on the age of the CD player, these may need to be two ¼ inch jack cables or RCA red and white cables.
If you need to convert the connector type, you can use a Y-adaptor which allows you to connect 3.5mm jacks to ¼ inch audio cables. Then, you simply need to connect the jack cables to the adaptor, before connecting the left and right-sided cables to the relevant inputs on your active speakers.
Once all of the connections are formed, your CD player should be all set up. You can use the volume controls on the CD player or the speakers depending on what is available, either should work for this purpose.
You might find that compared to using passive speakers and a receiver, this method leaves you with lesser audio quality. That’s because the cables you’ll be using to connect to the speakers aren’t balanced. However, this is a good option to use if you don’t have a receiver handy and aren’t overly concerned with a little hiss being present.
In the table below, you can find a summary of the different methods and the equipment you’ll need.
|No receiver needed
|No speaker wire needed
|Speaker wire needed
|Lesser sound quality
|Better sound quality
Connecting CD Players Using Bluetooth Adapters
Another common question that people ask is whether they can connect their CD player to a Bluetooth speaker. Unfortunately, this is only possible if your CD player has Bluetooth connectivity built-in.
This is the current set up I actually use as a quick way of playing some CDs! Sometimes it just feels good to put something in a player!
CD players are from a different era to Bluetooth speakers, so these two devices are rarely compatible with one another. However, there is an interesting method you could use if you wanted to enjoy your CDs through a Bluetooth speaker.
To do this, you’d need to get a Bluetooth transmitter device. These smartly designed devices connect to your CD player or any other source via a mini-jack connector. They then transmit a Bluetooth signal from the source device, of the audio that is playing at the time.
This will not provide you with the audio quality that using a receiver and a passive pair of stereo speakers does, but it’s a convenient method for quickly listening to your CD player through a Bluetooth speaker.
Unlike the methods I outlined earlier in this guide, using a Bluetooth transmitter doesn’t require hardly any setup, and it uses much fewer cables which keeps clutter to a minimum. You will need to ensure that the cable you use is compatible with the output on your CD player, though.
This may require you to use one of the adapters I mentioned earlier, especially if your CD player has two RCA outputs. Modern speakers rarely facilitate RCA and are more likely to use aux cables or ¼ inch jacks.
For more information take a look at this YouTube video on Bluetooth transmitters.
Do CD players need an amplifier?
CD players that don’t have onboard speakers do require an amplifier. This is needed to boost the audio signal from the CD so that it can be audibly heard through the set of speakers.
Are CDs better quality than MP3s?
CD files are eleven times larger than MP3 files, making them a much superior quality. MP3s are 128 Kbps, while most CDs are 1411 Kbps. This is because MP3s are compressed to be smaller files.
Do CD players have DACs?
The vast majority of traditional CD players have a built-in DAC. This allows digital signals to be converted into analog, and it also means that the CD player has an analog audio output.